Bi Kidude

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The "Grand old lady of Taarab", Bi Kidude (born: Fatuma Bintibaraka) had a major effect on the music and culture of Zanzibar. Singing in Arabic and Swahili, Kidude influenced the evolution of taarab,…
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The "Grand old lady of Taarab", Bi Kidude (born: Fatuma Bintibaraka) had a major effect on the music and culture of Zanzibar. Singing in Arabic and Swahili, Kidude influenced the evolution of taarab, a music style that originated in Egypt and usually accompanied by fiddles, flutes, drums and rattles. Kidude was equally inspirational for her resistance to the traditional roles of women in her homeland. Although she initially obeyed the Islamic custom of covering herself from head to toe while in public, she broke with tradition, deviantly raised her veil and allowed her audiences to see her face.

The daughter of a coconut seller, Kidude was born into a family of seven children in the small village of Mfagimarigo. Learning songs from a local singer, Siti Bintisaad, she began singing with other women at initiation ceremonies. As the sole female member of a musical group, she toured Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania.

In the 1980s, Kidude toured the U.K. with the Shikamoo Jazz Band, a group from Tanzania led by former Kiko Kid guitarist Salum Kahoro. Kidude ecorded her debut album, Zanzibar, with accompaniment by The Twinkling Stars, a Zanzibar-based band featuring Mohamed Ilyas (violin, accordion), Ali Salim (kanun), Seif Salim (violin, oud, rey) and Juna Ame (percussion).

Kidude augmented her income as a vocalist by making wanja, a black cosmetic used to draw designs on young women's arms and legs.